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Remote work is not going away anytime soon. A recent survey by Gallup shows that 8 in 10 people are working remotely or hybrid. Another study by AT&T predicts that the hybrid work model will grow from 42% in 2021 to 81% by 2024.
However, this rapid growth is presenting new challenges.
Organizations embracing remote and hybrid work are facing increased cybersecurity risks. One report shows that 20% of organizations experienced a breach caused by a remote worker.
Cybersecurity attacks caused by remote workers will continue challenging organizations that don’t implement the best cybersecurity monitoring practices for remote workers. Here’s a look into remote work security, the risks your business faces, and how you can ensure your remote workforce is secure. Here’s a look into remote work security, the risks your business faces, and how you can ensure your remote workforce is secure.
The Importance of Security with Remote Work
Remote work security protects company data when employees are working remotely. Remote employees access critical corporate data outside the office parameters, increasing the risk of exposure. Therefore, the organization risks a potential cybersecurity attack or data breach.
Remote employees not only access sensitive company information remotely but also discuss sensitive company information on various collaboration tools unmonitored by the organization.
Since the rise of remote work in 2020, data shows that remote employees have been the primary target of cybersecurity attacks, which have risen by 238%. This puts more pressure on organizations to implement robust cybersecurity measures for their remote teams to be more secure.
The Cybersecurity Risks Businesses Face with Employees Working Remotely
Remote workers introduce several cybersecurity risks to businesses. Some of the most notable ones include:
BYOD and Mobile Devices
Within an office, it’s easy to control which devices have access to the network using physical and software measures. However, employees working remotely often use their own devices to access the corporate network and transfer sensitive information.
This “bring your own device” culture and the use of mobile devices introduces huge vulnerabilities to the network.
Most mobile devices are used over public or insecure Wi-Fi networks, posing a significant cybersecurity threat. According to a study by IBM, mobile users are also likelier to be the first to respond to a phishing attack, making them more vulnerable.
Tracking and Management of Assets in the Cloud
Asset management affects the productivity and efficiency of most businesses. The data, software, and business information, such as logos and product designs hosted on your IT systems, are vital assets that hold immense business value. Therefore, they should be protected against cyberattacks at all costs.
Protecting and managing these assets is easier within a confined office space. Tracking and managing these assets becomes more complicated once your organization has remote employees who have access to them, no matter their location.
Poor Backup and Recovery Systems for Employees Working Remotely
Employees using their own devices often have inadequate backup and recovery options if they accidentally lose company data. The situation worsens when they use their personal devices for work.
If they download a corrupted file that crashes their device, they can lose and potentially compromise company data. Most businesses overlook this small but crucial cyber and data security detail.
Difficulty Sensitizing Remote Teams to Follow Data Security Protocols
Managing remote teams to ensure they follow the best data security protocols is challenging for most businesses. Sensitizing on-site teams is easier because of direct face-to-face communication.
With remote teams, you must rely on ineffective communication tools, such as WhatsApp, email, and Telegram, to pass a cybersecurity message. The odds of the employee reading and implementing the given protocols when communicated using these platforms are very low.
Data Protection Compliance
Businesses managing teams working remotely must pay close attention to GDPR and other data protection regulations. However, small businesses with a small remote team have a more challenging time implementing these regulations and staying compliant.
Recent reports show that hackers use GDPR non-compliance to extort non-compliant businesses.
Best Practices to Improve Cybersecurity for Remote Workers
Managing remote teams and your business’s cybersecurity risks involves implementing several best practices. They include the following:
Encrypting Sensitive Data
Encryption is one of the most effective data protection measures. When done correctly, encryption ensures data security no matter where it’s transferred. If hackers manage to get a hold of it, they can’t use the encrypted data since it makes no logical sense to unauthorized users.
Data encryption will also help prevent identity theft for your remote employees and monetary losses for the business and its customers.
Encouraging Remote Workers to Use a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) allows your employees to connect to the internet securely. VPNs also use encryption to hide the user’s data and IP address so that cybercriminals cannot trace or steal their data.
VPNs offer the needed network security for remote employees, giving you confidence while they access the business’s network. You should encourage them to use a VPN for all connections, whether home Wi-Fi, a personal hotspot, or a coffee shop password-secured Wi-Fi.
Using Two-Factor or Multi-Factor Authentication
Two-factor (2FA) or multi-factor (MFA) authentication helps avoid most credential-based attacks. This authentication system requests extra information such as a pin, secret question, or other relevant information to validate that the person providing the credentials for the account is the actual user.
You should enable 2FA or MFA for all account accesses to the corporate network by remote employees.
Providing Data Security Training
One survey shows that 78% of employees believe data security training is crucial. Data security training for remote employees helps encourage good cybersecurity behavior, such as proper password management, not using personal devices for work, and avoiding phishing attacks.
Instead of sharing the information via channels such as WhatsApp and Telegram, use more engaging video conferencing to spread the word and ensure everyone uses the best cybersecurity practices.
Enforcing the Use of Company Computers for Remote Workers
If possible, provide your remote workforce with work computers or laptops that they should use solely for work. Separating personal files from work files reduces corporate data exposure to external threats that may easily attack a personal device.
These company computers should also have exclusive access to company data, discouraging using personal devices to access corporate information.
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Get a Professional Team to Help Improve Your Business’s Cybersecurity
Working with remote teams is the new normal. To ensure you settle in early and protect your business’s data with remote employees, contact a cybersecurity professional who’ll give you the best cybersecurity framework and ensure your remote employees are secure and productive.
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About the Author
Richelle Calicott is partner and chief financial officer for TechSeven Partners. TechSeven Partners specializes in business IT network consulting in Charlotte. TechSeven is prominent in the small to medium business sectors and provides strategic technology and cyber security solutions for growing businesses.
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